27 August 2016

The Perfect Host: Uncovering (and Defending) a Hidden Six-Year-Old Gem

     Every so often a movie comes and goes like a quiet, brief afternoon drizzle: most people aren't even aware of it, and those who are were mildly annoyed by its presence, which may have ruined their 2:00 walk in the park. In 2011 The Perfect Host had a limited theatrical run, and those who managed to take notice of it responded to the film in the same manner as somebody who found himself without an umbrella when rain suddenly fell during his 2:00 walk in the park. Critics didn't necessarily pan the flick, but they didn't rave about it, either. "Mixed to negative reviews" is the term we're looking for.
     Some of us like the rain, though, especially when it arrives in the form of a lovely afternoon drizzle. We welcome its presence with open arms, smiling up at the sky as tiny droplets of cool water drip drip drip upon our warm cheeks. I, for one, welcomed The Perfect Host, and am genuinely baffled as to why critics didn't like this terrific little romp.
     David Hyde Pierce plays Warwick, our perfect host - a man of somewhat wealthy status who's seemingly planning a dinner party for some friends when a stranger, John, stumbles into his abode. John, claiming to know Warwick, is actually an on-the-run fugitive who's just robbed a bank and needs a place to lay low. But that's not a problem for Warwick, because as fate would have it, the night's host is himself harboring a dark secret: he is a delusional, schizophrenic lunatic who's drugged John's wine way before he even learned of John's criminal background, proving that karma is, in fact, a bitch.
     John wakes up tied to a chair at the dinner table, which has been set with a number of platters despite the absence of guests - except that, at least in the twisted mind of Warwick, the kitchen is full of friends all gathered to enjoy the lovely evening. John, of course, is Warwick's guest of honor, and he'll have to endure a night of torment at the hands of his deranged host.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

     The Perfect Host is as divine as Warwick's Los Angeles home and as twisted as his mind. While not strictly a horror film, it employs tons of thriller tropes with, naturally, a healthy helping of absurdist humor. You'll be strangely enamored with David Hyde Pierce's Warwick, who offers us charm, laughs, and terror all at once. The full three-course meal, if you will. He's like a more outgoing shade of Norman Bates; captivating and horrifying. John, meanwhile, is a character we initially despise but learn to cheer for, which can get a little difficult because the sadistic schadenfreude in all of us - that part of us that cheers on Jason Voorhees while pining for the individual beheadings of the obnoxious teenagers - really wants to root for Warwick. That's one of many things I like about The Perfect Host: the fact that both of the main characters are terrible but for totally different respective reasons, we can't really pick sides. We know it's probably not going to happen, but we'd like to see both of them triumph over the other. This cognitive dissonance aspect proves to be less frustrating than cognitive dissonance tends to be, because the movie is far too busy being endlessly entertaining for us to dwell on such trivialities. We're laughing at Warwick's ridiculous antics as he dances with people who aren't actually there and we're at the very least blowing air out of our nostrils at John's quick-witted passive aggressive responses to Warwick's weird behavior. Simultaneously, if you let it, the surreal milieu of the entire eerie evening enraptures you and never lets go.
     But no movie is without its flaws. To an extent, I can understand why some critics might not have loved The Perfect Host. For one, the movie doesn't really seem to know its own genre and fumbles between horror, drama, thriller, absurdist comedy, crime, and then some. Granted one could easily view this as a positive facet, as multi-genre films aren't uncommon, but it's not difficult to see how that might not have clicked with some viewers. Added to that, the subplot involving John's girlfriend is admittedly hamfisted and could've been fleshed out a tad more, or at least organized a bit better. After all, I described the situation as a "subplot" when in fact it's technically the core plot of the whole thing. The fact that it played out like a subplot definitely hindered its importance. Finally, there are two "twists" toward the end of The Perfect Host, and one of them is... well, it's very confusing. I use this phrase a lot, but the Fridge Logic is strong with this one. Obviously revealing the twist would be a massive spoiler, so if you've seen the flick and you're unsure what I'm referring to, it's the slit throat. You know what I'm talking about. Maybe I missed something, but it seemed to raise a lot of unanswered questions.
     Regardless of its imperfections, The Perfect Host did not deserve its poor critical response nor its lack of attention. The movie is flooded with originality, great performances, and one of the most satisfyingly grin-worthy endings I've ever seen. When a movie is as entertaining as this one is from start to finish, I fail to see how anybody couldn't at the very least enjoy it a smidgen. I wholeheartedly encourage you to find this hidden gem if you can, and hopefully you'll cherish it as much as I did.

09 August 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence, or "A Movie So Bad It Took Me Over a Month to Adequately Review It and Even Then I Still Couldn't Adequately Review It"

     There are times, I must admit, when I say harsh things without thinking about the effect they might have. I tend to shoot before aiming, and more often than not I will miss and accidentally cut off the opponent's head when I barely even intended a wound. I tend to do this a lot when reviewing movies, especially.
     Recently I posted to Facebook a very concise review of Independence Day: Resurgence, which consisted entirely of the following: "No." The other day it occurred to me: that's not fair. The movie deserves something more in-depth. Sure, I didn't enjoy it, and sure, the first Independence Day was supremely superior, but as somebody who likes to write, I should have had more to say. I should have offered Independence Day: Resurgence more thoughts than a simple "no."
     Bearing this in mind, I opted to put together a list of pros and cons regarding the flick - a more basic type of review, but one that's also longer than a single word. Except, for this particular pro/con list, instead of "pro" it'll be "kinda," because there really are no pros when it comes to Independence Day: Resurgence, and instead of "con" it'll be "fuck no," because the word "con" is an extreme understatement. Here goes.

  • Jeff Goldblum
  • Jeff Goldbum's dad
  • Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • DeObia Oparei
  • the big mama alien at the end
  • the special effects 

Fuck No:
  • the opening scene shows us the aliens literally watching footage from the movie Independence Day, implying that they exist both in a universe where Independence Day was just a movie and in the Independence Day in-movie universe, and no matter how you try to shake it, none of that makes any sense
  • the Washington Monument has the names of all the victims of the War of 1996 engraved into it, because even with all the technological advancements humanity has utilized from the aliens, we apparently couldn't afford to build a separate memorial
  • the obnoxious best friend of Thor's little brother is the worst character I have ever seen in a movie and he should have died ten minutes in
  • Ann Veal not returning as President Pullman's daughter
  • the surviving aliens are imprisoned, but they're still wearing the weaponized bio-mech suits that made them so dangerous to begin with. That's like locking up Ted Kaczynski with a book of matches and fifty-seven sticks of dynamite
  • President Pullman's ridiculous disheveled look and weird high-pitched voice
  • the lack of Will Smith
  • the lack of a Randy Quaid force-ghost
  • a whole slew of deus ex machina
  • awkward pacing and editing
  • the development of Vivica A. Fox's character is as empty and pointless as her death
  • too many "motivational" speeches that never come close to holding a candle to Pullman's in the first Independence Day 
  • a laundry list of impossible-to-keep-up-with side characters that are so shoehorned and unnecessary that I lack the capacity to give a single fuck about any of them
  • Judd Hirsch inexplicably (though thankfully) surviving an onslaught of mile-high waves full of buildings and heavy debris on his little fuckin' tugboat 
  • every vehicle manages to travel millions of miles in just a few minutes 
  • fucking people in Africa wield alien technology but live in goddamn huts
  • the goddamn alien mothership fucking somehow has its own gravity
  • everything else
  • oh, sweet merciful Christ
  • don't do this to me
  • take the wheel, Jesus
  • take the fucking wheel
  • oh God, why? 
  • why have you forsaken me, God?
  • what did we do to deserve this?
  • are you even listening anymore?
  • are you even there?
  • were you ever there?